Within each of us exists a microscopic world where trillions of cells work together to sustain life. Until very recently, the behavior of those cells remained a mystery to scientists and physicians. Thanks to the advent of the electron microscope, however, scientists in the 20th century were finally able to make direct observations of organisms at the cellular level. These innovative tools offered unprecedented insights into the inner workings of multicellular organisms. But even with the most powerful microscope, it can be difficult to visualize the processes that happen inside of individual cells.
That’s why educators often rely on highly detailed illustrations to bring these cell functions to life.
Consider photosynthesis, for example. Most people are familiar with the process that allows plants to convert sunlight into fuel, but they probably don’t have a clear idea of just how this remarkable process happens. You might be able to observe the results of photosynthesis under a microscope, but it can be next to impossible to capture step-by-step snapshots of the process itself. In cases such as this, an illustration can offer insights and explanations that a microscope cannot.
Protein activity is another good example. Proteins are the workhorses of the cell, performing a variety of critical functions such as providing cells with structural support and translating the genetic information stored in DNA. Illustrations allow biologists and medical students to observe and study the protein activity hidden behind cell walls.
Illustrations can also make it easier to observe selective, cross-sectional views of individual cells. This can be especially useful when studying the functions of different cell structures. When used in conjunction with microscopic imaging techniques, illustrations can offer a more complete picture of cellular activity.